Gay couple Time's Canadian newsmaker for 2003

Michael Leshner and Michael Stark are named Time magazine's 2003 Canadian newsmakers of the year for battling in favour of same-sex marriage

A court ruling declaring Canada's legal definition of marriage a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was the inspiration behind Time magazine's 2003 Canadian "newsmaker of the year."

The publication chose Michael Leshner and Michael Stark as top newsmakers for playing a key role in the legal battle for same-sex marriage rights.

"The Michaels" as they've often been called were granted a marriage licence and tied the knot in a Toronto ceremony last June after Ontario's highest court upheld a lower court decision to legally allow same-sex marriages.

The current definition of marriage is invalid and the laws must be changed, the court said.

Jean Chrtien, then prime minister, later announced the federal government would not appeal the ruling. By the end of summer, the Liberals had drafted legislation to formalize the decision and sent it to the Supreme Court for review.

The magazine's Canadian bureau chief, Steven Frank, says the pair's wedding started a "cultural revolution."

"But it is neither for their marriage nor their monogamy that the Michaels have became world famous," he writes.

"The two men have come to symbolize something much bigger: the unprecedented acceleration of social liberalism in Canada in 2003. From gay marriage to moves to decriminalize marijuana and provide supervised injection booths for drug addicts in Vancouver, 2003 will go down in history as the year that Canada rethought what was taboo."

Leshner told CBC Newsworld he welcomes the newsmaker honours.

"I really do think that the values this case represents and what Mike and I have come to symbolize, I really feel like we're Canada's new Mary Pickford... we are Canada's sweethearts," he said.

"What better human rights story to send around the world that says Canada loves the Michaels, and for the rest of the world to wonder, what on earth is going on in Canada?"

Leshner said he was determined that eventually he'd win the legal battle to get married to his partner of over 20 years.

"This was a long fuse, but you know when the fuse went off, I often said there's no more mortar between the bricks of political and legal homophobia; when it was exposed, it would go down with one big swish... and it has."

The magazine's U.S. edition chose the anonymous soldier as its "person of the year."

Time said the soldier, representing nearly 1.5 million men and women in the U.S. military, bears the duty of "living with and dying for a country's most fateful decisions."

Maclean's Choice

Canada's weekly newsmagazine, Maclean's magazine chose 66-year-old Stephen Lewis, the United Nation's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, as its inaugural choice for Canadian of the Year, because of his vision, perseverance, and above all his passion.

Maclean's year-end issue cites marijuana, same-sex-marriage and the war in Iraq as the most divisive issues for Canadians in 2003.